Higher Highs & Lower Lows

Higher Highs & Lower Lows

The Joys of Traveling Alone
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Traveling alone is a joy because I can fully allow myself to experience my surroundings without the hesitation of considering the expectations of those around me. I don’t have to be paused by other individual's funny looks or social anxieties. For example, if I am in a relationship with someone, I generally try to shield them from my lowest lows. I mean that in the sense of when someone else is around, I generally just don't fall into my saddest places. But that limitation goes both ways. Every reaction has a opposite and equal reaction. By stopping myself from experiencing those lows, I inadvertently stop myself from experiencing elation. Some people are able to be in wonderful relationships with people that can ride those highs and lows with them. But I find that I subconsciously "clean my house up" when someone gets close. I'm talking about that routine clean when you have guests over because you want them to see your house at its best. But this even-tempered stability is in itself a social norm.

When I’m singing alone by myself to the car radio with a big fat dumb smile on my face just tripping out on how I couldn’t image a more beautiful life, there’s no one to comment. There's no one to ask why driving home through the fog on a regular Saturday night after working eight hours has given me so much joy.

No one is there to touch my thoughts, except for me. Earlier today, I also had a low. It was this extremely anxious moment of chaos. Right after I had come home from work around 5:00, I ran around my house talking to myself and my cat. It was such a therapeutic release for me. In my own world, in my own head, in my own room, I was able to fully express the chaos of my mind. I let myself. It was silly and loud and didn't make a lot of sense. But I think I needed to let out some of the pressure of my life. I'm about to be done with my formal education and there are some big questions on the fore front of my mind. I am so comfortable with myself that I can fully explore my own mind in it's lightest and darkest states. I want to experience the world under these pretenses. Where I can allow myself to be at whatever point, high or low, and not worry because I understand my own complexity. But if I were with another person, a partner, a fellow experiencer, I just wouldn’t spend as much time exploring my own thoughts. I would explore theirs. I would be fundamentally impacted by their presence. Not because of anything they would say or do, but because I would hold myself at a certain point. I wouldn't let myself explore the lows. But, also if you don’t have these lows, then it's much harder to appreciate the highs.

Wouldn’t traveling alone be lonely?

Yeah it can be lonely. That's why there is so much joy in meeting a stranger when you’ve had no one to talk to for two days. When I have a conversation, I'm not just having a word or two, I am fully engaged in that moment. I experience a higher high. That person genuinely made my day. There’s the elation that company brings because of the stark loneliness. But meeting these people allows me to observe and understand another culture more deeply. It is so valuable because I can fish out similarities even from of people that have a completely different social conditioning than me. It's an interesting reflection of self as well. We all have so much social history behind our understandings of the world, but it's hard to identify the extent of our social norms until they're replaced with new ones. Nature or nurture is a timeless question. We don’t even know what we have been to conditioned to believe because we rationalize our beliefs into our realities. Traveling alone is an opportunity to learn from new people and to learn about yourself in a new light. I’ve tried for years to deprogram myself from gender roles, racial stereotypes, conversation norms, and social taboos. Still, I don’t know what I don’t know. I haven’t been where I haven’t been. There are people, cultures, lives, and places that I will never know. There's something wonderfully reflective about meeting someone who has been brought up completely differently than you have been. You can achieve this reflection anywhere in the world at anytime with anyone, but going across the globe alone is what did it for me. I definitely couldn’t go back to my small world understandings afterwards. I felt like a child examining a new world for the first time.

Pruning is something that happens to children when they pass from being a toddler to becoming an adult. Human babies have the longest helplessness period of any animal. But it’s because of how intelligent we are. We have these insane networks of neurons that are the busiest they’ll ever be when we are two years old. We can’t speak, can’t hold things, and definitely can’t focus on a single task. Every single part of a baby’s head is lighting up when they think. Their brains are on fire everywhere! This is amazing, but not efficient. So pruning happens. They start narrowing in on their abilities. They strengthen the neurons that they use, and others go grey. But minds remain plastic throughout the human life. That’s been proven by MRI meditation studies. What I mean by plastic is that the mind has the ability to change. Neural connections are constantly branching out and growing or drying up and dying. I imagine that a chess grand master’s mind has this thick bulge in one area that represents their brilliance in chess. When they are going mad on chess they’re minds (probably in their left brain) are so lit up that they are superheroes of the mind. A phenomenal slackliner might have strength of neurons in their motor cortex that reflects their control of movement. Language and travel on the other hand, broaden your network. They aren't just strengthening neural pathways, they are making new ones.

Is it Safe?

This is the question that will separate the people who will do this from the people who will not do this. That’s not a question I can tell answer because safety is based on a long time understanding of the world, not a one-time debreifer. We need to survive and fear helps us do so. My understanding of the world happens to be that there are far more good people in the world than bad. So that makes it easy for me. I believe that so whole-heartedly that I’m going to be safe and protected no matter where I go. I'm even willing to test it again and again. I am tremendously grateful that my curiosity motivates me more strongly than my fear does. It makes this planet accessible. That’s not a feeling many women in history have been afforded. I have that luxury because of generations of women fighting for a better world, one that I fully plan on exploring. My understanding of the world is part of my identity. It’s something that I can’t change or necessarily convince other people of. I appreciate these highs and lows. I want to uncover new questions. I want to meet people and write down their stories. I want to remember my life.

I'm a woman and I experience vulnerability because of my gender. That is, walking down the street sometimes people shout things at me and I feel scared. I'm smaller than many of my male counterparts in my species. However I'm grateful for that vulnerability. When I'm walking down the street behind someone and they turn around, they look relieved when they see me. Oh it's just a girl. She's not threatening. I've found the benefit of being approachable. I'm invited places. I can fit in anywhere. I can make friends quickly. So that vulnerability, in itself, I consider to be a strength.

Traveling alone is an opportunity to develop a one-on-one relationship with the one person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with, you. That's one consciousness that will be with you for certain. Traveling with friends isn’t a bad idea either! But for me, at this point in my life, traveling alone fulfills the desire for individualization and freedom that I've been looking for.

Cover Image Credit: Raleigh LaCombe

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8 Reasons Why My Dad Is the Most Important Man In My Life

Forever my number one guy.
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Growing up, there's been one consistent man I can always count on, my father. In any aspect of my life, my dad has always been there, showing me unconditional love and respect every day. No matter what, I know that my dad will always be the most important man in my life for many reasons.

1. He has always been there.

Literally. From the day I was born until today, I have never not been able to count on my dad to be there for me, uplift me and be the best dad he can be.

2. He learned to adapt and suffer through girly trends to make me happy.

I'm sure when my dad was younger and pictured his future, he didn't think about the Barbie pretend pageants, dressing up as a princess, perfecting my pigtails and enduring other countless girly events. My dad never turned me down when I wanted to play a game, no matter what and was always willing to help me pick out cute outfits and do my hair before preschool.

3. He sends the cutest texts.

Random text messages since I have gotten my own cell phone have always come my way from my dad. Those randoms "I love you so much" and "I am so proud of you" never fail to make me smile, and I can always count on my dad for an adorable text message when I'm feeling down.

4. He taught me how to be brave.

When I needed to learn how to swim, he threw me in the pool. When I needed to learn how to ride a bike, he went alongside me and made sure I didn't fall too badly. When I needed to learn how to drive, he was there next to me, making sure I didn't crash.

5. He encourages me to best the best I can be.

My dad sees the best in me, no matter how much I fail. He's always there to support me and turn my failures into successes. He can sit on the phone with me for hours, talking future career stuff and listening to me lay out my future plans and goals. He wants the absolute best for me, and no is never an option, he is always willing to do whatever it takes to get me where I need to be.

6. He gets sentimental way too often, but it's cute.

Whether you're sitting down at the kitchen table, reminiscing about your childhood, or that one song comes on that your dad insists you will dance to together on your wedding day, your dad's emotions often come out in the cutest possible way, forever reminding you how loved you are.


7. He supports you, emotionally and financially.

Need to vent about a guy in your life that isn't treating you well? My dad is there. Need some extra cash to help fund spring break? He's there for that, too.

8. He shows me how I should be treated.

Yes, my dad treats me like a princess, and I don't expect every guy I meet to wait on me hand and foot, but I do expect respect, and that's exactly what my dad showed I deserve. From the way he loves, admires, and respects me, he shows me that there are guys out there who will one day come along and treat me like that. My dad always advises me to not put up with less than I deserve and assures me that the right guy will come along one day.

For these reasons and more, my dad will forever be my No. 1 man. I love you!

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My Future Is Unpredictable And That's Totally Alright

As I prepare for study abroad in Ecuador, I'm going in with no expectations.

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For six months, I had plans to study abroad in the Dominican Republic during the fall semester of junior year. Filling out what seemed like endless applications and paperwork, searching for travel ideas on Pinterest, and writing a class research paper on the DR's relationship with its neighboring island, Haiti, I was prepared to live and learn about Dominican culture hands-on.

Then on the Thursday before Finals Week last spring, I read my email. My study abroad program in the DR had gotten canceled. In the span of 30 seconds, my future had taken a new course. Less than a week later, I was submitting papers to study abroad in a new country where another adventure awaited: Ecuador.

If there's anything I've learned in the past year, it's that life is unpredictable and we can't control it. The future is unknown. But-

Who wants to know exactly what's going to happen in the next few years? I mean, I believe it's good to have a direction, but you don't have to have the entire journey pinpointed straight to the core. You meet people, you get inspired, you see things, you have experiences. And you go from there. (Though, I totally respect people who have clear ambitions and stick with them their entire lives.)

Where I was a year ago was a completely different path than where I find myself today. Last summer, I worked four different internships/jobs in the span of three months. A year ago, I would never have guessed my following summer unfolding with an immersion trip to India, a solo adventure to Taiwan & Hong Kong, and becoming a certified yoga instructor. A year ago, I hadn't met half of my best friends. A year ago, I hadn't seen poverty in a third-world country. A year ago, I wasn't even sure I wanted to major in Environmental Studies.

Just because I don't know what the future holds doesn't mean I can't set goals. I have a destination, an idea of where I'm headed and where I want to go. While abroad in Ecuador, I want to learn about sustainable development and coffee production as well as enhance my Spanish skills.

As I prepare for study abroad in Ecuador, I'm going in with no expectations. I know the format of the program. I'll be taking classes and living with a host family and then doing an internship at a farm. Otherwise, I have no idea what's going to happen. And that's what I'm looking forward to the most. The spontaneity. The unexpected. As one of my good friends would say whenever he doesn't have formal weekend plans, "I'm improvising." And you know the one rule of improv: Always say yes.

¡Hasta pronto, Ecuador!

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